Masters of Art I: Jackson Pollock (string, marble, & pendulum painting)

Jackson Pollock’s work represents exploration with paint, movement, and self expression. He worked on a very large scale and he used his whole body to accomplish covering the canvas. I showed my students a few examples of Pollock in action and also his finished pieces.
In honor of Pollock I set up three paint projects. The first, String Painting, was an experimentation in mark making and using paint in an nontraditional way without brushes.
It’s important to give students time to discover the “mark” or “track'” that each material makes. This lesson was also a great study in layering paint and color mixing.
Open containers and permission to get paint on hands often turns into expressive art and a wonderful sensory experience.
I love open-ended projects because each piece is truly unique, .
Our second project, Marble Painting, represented Pollocks kinetic approach to art making. We stood on our feet, moved away from the table and jumped around. The final product is a close match to the aesthetic of Pollock’s work.
Ball Painting10
Materials needed for this project:

  • Pringles container or Tennis ball container with lid
  • marbles
  • spoons and containers for paint
  • tempera paint
  • paper cut to fit containers

From experience we learned that it helped to write each student’s name on the paper prior to inserting it into the tube.  After the paper is placed in the tub each child added 2-4 paint covered marbles.I encouraged children to use a different color on each marble.
Depending on what colors are on the marbles and how long you shake the art might turn a bit brown. This is a great lesson for children in color mixing. Complimentary colors across from each other on the color wheel will make brown (green + red, orange + blue, and yellow + purple).
Before shaking it’s important to make sure the lid is fitted securely. I warn kids that I might say freeze and we practice jumping around and then stopping when I say freeze
You can experiment with shaking the can a little or a lot for a different amount of coverage.
Our final project of the day was Pendulum Painting. This activity is a wonderful combination of  science and art. Pendulum painting incorporates physics and is  just as fun to watch as it is to do. It’s very zen, calm and peaceful.
There are several ways to construct a pendulum. You can do something as easy as a tripod/tepee style or build up from a square base. I chose to build one based on Teacher Tom’s design because it looked sturdy enough to last a week in a classroom and if it was bumped or pushed it wouldn’t tip over.
I used 1/2″ tubing and slide on connecters without glue so that I could break down the pendulum for easy storing. the length of the pendulum base was 4′ x 4′ and it was about 3′ tall.  I used a plastic bottle and drilled a hole in the cap about 3/8″ thick. I played around with the size of the hole and the paint to water ratio. I found the washable tempera I was using needed to be thinned down to 2 parts paint: 1 part water. I used a clothes pin at the end of the string to detach the bottle for cleaning after each class or when we needed to do a color change.
Once you fill the paint and let go of the bottle the paint starts coming out so it’s nice for children to have a dry run before paint is added. I described swinging the pendulum gently like you are swinging a baby,  not to push, throw or hit the bottle. It’s takes practice to get the circular motion so after each child swung the bottle I would often give it a little nudge to help the pattern.
Drying takes a long time and for the first 12-24 hours (unless it’s a hot sunny day and you can dry them outside) they need to dry flat so the paint doesn’t drip. This was tricky as I have over 70 students a week and minimal flat drying space, especially for large scale pieces but I devised a flat layered rack and rotated several times a day hanging art on the walls if it was till tacky but not drippy. I loved the way the studio looked during this project. So fun and alive!

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